Introduction: Observing Trifles

by Edward Muir

I've tried to get to the essentials and be as precise as possible, always

keeping in mind that if the flour's too refined, the bread loses its flavor.

Danilo Dolci, Creature of Creatures

Holmes to Watson: "Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon the details. "

-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, " A Case of Identity"

Holmes to Watson: "You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles. "

-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Bascombe Valley Mystery"

Sherlock Holmes's knack for noticing the apparently trivial was, of course, the wellspring of his many successes in criminal detection, a trait that makes his solutions, when examined in retrospect, so convincingly simple.1 Historians have long enjoyed pointing out the similarities between criminal and historical detection,2 but the comparison has now become central to a debate about historical method that has focused on the genre of micro history , which evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although it has parallels elsewhere, microhistory was born in northern Italy, especially in Bologna, the same intellectual milieu in which Umberto Eco wrote his best-selling novel, The Name of the Rose. It is not an accident, then, that the central character in Eco's novel, a fourteenth-century Franciscan hybrid between William of Occam and Sherlock Holmes, exhibits the same fascination with observing trifles as do the microhistorians, who invoke the famous fictional detective as a methodological guide. Their work responds to the once-dominant preoccupation among historians with quantitative social science, the longue duree, and immobile history, and it returns to interpreting utterances and beliefs, to describing brief dramatic events, and to envisioning a past characterized more by abrupt changes than by deep structural continuities.

These changes in the practice of history are analogous to certain developments in other disciplines. Sociologists have moved toward deciphering through microlinguistics short social encounters.3 Ethologists such as Jane Goodall in her study of chimpanzees insist on the importance of systematic, long-term observation of individual animals in their natural habitat. Goodall's rejection of the laboratory, with its measurements, calculations, and statistical predictions, demonstrates, as Stephen Jay Gould puts it, that "close observation of individual differences can be as powerful a method in science as the quantification of predictable behavior in a zillion identical atoms. ...When you understand why nature's complexity can only be unraveled this way, why individuality matters so crucially, then you are in a position to understand what the sciences of history are all about. "4 The most important reverberations, however, have been with ethnography. Among anthropologists there is a movement "to stress not just the given nature of society, but also the ways in which human beings continually construct, manipulate, and even recast the social worlds into which they were born and within which they will die. "5 The various disciplinary byways that have led scholars back to individuals making choices and developing strategies within the constraints of their own time and place have been diverse.

In this collection of essays from Quaderni storici, the second volume in a series, we propose to follow the path opened by the Italian scholars who coined the term microhistory and who have been the most creative in exploring its potentialities. Italian microhistory has made its claim to novelty in two ways. The first has been to argue for a reduction of the scale of historical research in order to isolate and test the many abstractions of social thought. In terms remarkably similar to those of Stephen Jay Gould, Carlo Ginzburg has argued that, "a close reading of a relatively small number of texts, related to a possibly circumscribed belief, can be more rewarding than the massive accumulation of repetitive evidence."6 The second way has been to offer an alternative method for the evaluation of historical evidence, a method called the evidential paradigm, which is similar to the theory of abduction the American philosopher Charles Peirce proposed a century ago as a systematic way to sort out fragmentary clues.

Italian microhistory has evolved in a series of monographs issued by the Turin publisher, Giulio Einaudi,7 and above all in the journal Quaderni storici. Since 1966 Quaderni storici has played a singular role in the polycentric, highly ideological Italian university world where young scholars can usually find a position only after years of servitude to an academic "baron" who, at least in the past, was invariably affiliated with one of the major political parties. As Guido Ruggiero pointed out in his introduction to the first volume in this series, Quaderni storici has tried to assure a place for experimentation, for minority approaches to scholarship ( especially those of women), and for interdisciplinary methodologies; at the same time, it has eschewed any explicit ideological or party affiliation.8

In a 1977 Quaderni storici article Edoardo Grendi first proposed a research agenda based on microanalysis.9 Then in 1979 in an essay titled "The Name and the Game: Unequal Exchange and the Historiographic Marketplace, " Carlo Ginzburg and Carlo Poni outlined a program for microhistory that might make Italian historical scholarship more independent from the dominating influence of the French Annales school. While granting that the quantitative and serial data history characteristic of much of French and American historiography would retain the status of "normal science" in the sense established by Thomas Kuhn, a new type of research, Ginzburg and Poni predicted, would create an ethnographic history of everyday life by devoting itself to extremely circumscribed phenomena such as a single community, a family, or an individual.10 Italy, they thought, is particularly well suited for ethnographic history because the unmatched richness of documentary material-not only in the archives and libraries, but in land use patterns, the forms of the cities, and the mores of the population-makes the peninsula "an immense archive. "

In advocating a finely focused ethnographic history , Ginzburg and Poni concurred with similar developments in certain circles in Britain, France, and the United States. They wanted to develop a method to trace what Natalie Zemon Davis had labelled "the social creativity of the so-called inarticulate."11 They wanted to escape the traditional overemphasis in Italy on institutional and legal history that preserved Crocean idealism and statism and to redress the newer influences that had led to the cliometric preoccupation with numbers rather than persons and the sociological preference for abstractions as analytical units. In place of these they wanted to substitute a genre that was devoted to social relationships and interactions among historical persons who, in contrast to analytic categories, actually existed and who experienced life as a series of events. Their approach was to be nominalistic, practical, and rooted in "common sense."12

Central to their method is tracing the names of individuals. "The lines that converge upon and diverge from the name, creating a kind of closely woven web, provide for the observer a graphic image of the network of social relationships into which the individual is inserted.13 The ideal result would be a prosopography from below in which the relationships, decisions, restraints, and freedoms faced by real people in actual situations would emerge. Once again, in the fashion of nineteenth-century positivism, individual persons make their own histories, but to the microhistorians the makers of history are seldom "great men" but rather the little peoples lost to European history: in the examples in this collection, a charlatan distiller, the anonymous pillagers of ecclesiastical property, an accused witch, peasants who had disturbing visions, two Jews who destroyed Christian images on their houses, the inhabitants of a small coral-gathering and olive-culture town, and unwed mothers who sought aid in urban hospitals.14 When the microhistorians have studied great men, such as Galileo or Piero della Francesca, they have focused on obscure clues that have traditionally been ignored or devalued as insignificant.

Although by no means the sole originator of the microhistorical method, Carlo Ginzburg is certainly the best known of the microhistorians, especially outside Italy. Long before the term microhistory was coined, Ginzburg explored many of what would become its distinguishing traits in his early studies of witch trials.15 These studies anticipated microhistorical techniques by treating inquisitors' interrogations of suspected witches as a kind of dialogue in which the most revealing interchanges for the historian are those in which the participants' misunderstandings of each other offer clues to now-lost ways of thinking. His best-known work, The Cheese and the Worms, explicitly developed the microhistorical approach by analyzing how a sixteenth-century Italian miller named Menocchio creatively "misread" an odd collection of books, including possibly even the Koran, and interpreted them through the filters of the material culture of his peasant heritage to form a private cosmology so distinctive that it utterly mystified the inquisitors who examined him. Ginzburg uses Menocchio's inquisition trials to trace the reciprocal relationships between popular and elite culture and, on the basis of stray clues found in the miller's testimony, to reconstruct a "millenarian cosmological tradition" that depicted the creation of angels and God out of primal matter just as worms, according to the popular theory of the time, are spontaneously generated out of cheese. The miller's cosmology is presented as a mutant version of a once-pervasive pantheism that still survived in the sixteenth century within nominally Christian society .16

The guiding premise in Ginzburg's work has been that through the intense study of a few revealing documents, especially the records of interrogations, one can recapture the interactions between elite and popular cultures. Related themes appear in several of the articles included in this collection, examples of what might be called cultural microhistory .In "The Dovecote Has Opened Its Eyes," Ginzburg and Marco Ferrari show how elements of medical knowledge circulated between literate and nonliterate groups, that is, between print and oral culture, a circulation that has continued into this century in a popular remedy for treating burns. In "Ritual Pillages," a work produced by Ginzburg's seminar at the University of Bologna, the survival into the sixteenth century of the practice of pillaging ecclesiastical and personal property after the death of a bishop or pope shows how a primitive tradition, best explained by reference to the anthropological literature on tribal societies, infiltrated the highest levels of Christian society, despite the protests of numerous Church authorities. Explicitly following Ginzburg's lead into inquisition records, Maurizio Bertolotti in "The Ox's Bones and the Ox's Hide: A Popular Myth, Part Hagiography and Part Witchcraft," examines the interactions between a sixteenth-century witch tutored in an oral tradition and an erudite inquisitor, both of whom shared knowledge of an archaic myth that had been transmitted to them in very different ways and in quite different forms. In a similar fashion Ottavia Niccoli in "The Kings of the Dead on the Battlefield of Agnadello," shows how an ancient myth about the armies of the dead provided the content for some famously disturbing apparitions observed in 1517. She analyses how the introduction of print complicated the picture of the interaction among cultures and how reports of the apparitions took on different meanings in different social contexts. Despite the evident similarities between ancient myths and Renaissance practices or beliefs, similarities that might have suggested to other scholars some kind of formal analysis, these historians argue that meaning can only be found among the specific social groups and named individuals who accepted the practices and beliefs. Therefore, meaning is entirely contextual.

One of the dominant goals of this form of cultural microhistory has been to write history without the taint of anachronism, a task advocated by most historians but difficult to accomplish. To avoid anachronisms the cultural microhistorians begin with the assumption that the past is utterly alien to the present, that the citizens of sixteenth- century Rome or Bologna were as different from us as are the tribes of the New Guinea highlands. The result is an ambivalent relationship between their historical practice and contemporary politics and ideologies. Ginzburg, in particular, wants to distance himself from the labels, party cliques, ideological factions, petty quarrels, and ephemeral movements that have made Italian intellectual life so reflexive and obscure. 17 The universities-and not only in Italy-have been particularly vulnerable to a kind of self-referential scholasticism, the ruinous habit of ignoring common sense typical of late medieval angelology and more than one contemporary theoretical school. To him the proper goal of the historian is not to explore the historical implications of a contemporary theory or problem, but to write about things that are totally forgotten and completely irrelevant to the present, to produce a history that is "really dead." Many critics have obviously been confused by this idiosyncratic voice of reason. In their insistence on categorising rather than understanding his thought, some have even accused him of right-wing positions despite his left-wing background, but Ginzburg has refused to be provoked into associating his historical work with any ideology .18 In contrast to the "unmoving history" of the dominant group in the old Annales school or the institutional and intellectual history of Italian scholars on both the Right and the Left who have often presented the past as an unfolding of their own political positions, Ginzburg's history is rent by vast and abrupt changes that produce psychic and intellectual gaps between the past and the present. Historians who worry too much about being relevant to the present, he says, too readily produce anachronistic history , and "anachronism is a kind of conscious or unconscious will to impose your own values and also your own existence on people. So in some way, philology is also related to a kind of respect for the dead. 19

The philological concern of the cultural microhistorians for the accurate reconstruction of meanings within their original contexts reveals one of the most striking characteristics of their methods: they respect the strictest positivist standards in the collection and criticism of evidence but employ that evidence in highly unconventional ways. Again Carlo Ginzburg serves as the best example.20 As an explanation for his radical methodological attitude, Ginzburg claims Freud as his intellectual model, despite the fact that his work is often strongly anti Freudian.21 It is not Freudianism itself, however, that interests Ginzburg but the distinctive character of Freud's mind: "the peculiar mixture in Freud's intellectual personality of a very positivistic attitude towards truth and that daring attitude about questions, relevancies, methods, and standards of proof. "22

The cultural microhistorians' distinctive combination of evidential rigor and openness to creative proofs and esoteric topics can be further clarified by comparing their work with the late Michel Foucault's philosophical history .23 Both the microhistorians and Foucault have written about similar subjects, the objects of persecution such as witches, madmen, and Jews and the institutions of coercion such as inquisitions, hospitals, and prisons. Both have emphasized how modern hegemonic institutions have excluded certain ways of thinking by dismissing them as demonic, irrational, heretical, or criminal, thus narrowing the range of intellectual options available to the culture.

Both have consciously inverted the picture of the progressive liberation of modern history , depicting modern cultures as less free in many respects than medieval ones. Yet none of the microhistorians cite Foucault, and Ginzburg, in particular, denies any significant influence from him, calling Les mats et les chases, for example, "not so interesting" and "even weak."24

Two major aspects of Foucault's views disturb Ginzburg. First, Foucault's theories cannot be verified. According to Foucault's own scheme, standards of verification come from a modern scientific discipline that "refamiliarizes" the past to make it conform to the terms of the present rather than to those of the past. Thus, correctness means conformity to an order of things that has been defined by a discipline or institution. Historical truth is what the discipline of history says it is. For Ginzburg this view is a grand evasion; it may not be easy to respect the dead, but one is not inevitably condemned to violate their graves and distort their beliefs. To Ginzburg correctness can be and must be determined by the concrete, physically real evidence the past presents to us-not by the disciplines, which are artificial constructs. Second, Foucault consciously imposes himself between the past and present in seeking to dissolve the assumed understandings of the coercive disciplines and institutions and thus to "defamiliarize" the past from the present, to make the past radically alien to our contemporary ways of understanding.25 Although this process seems to be similar to Ginzburg's evocation of dead history, it diverts attention from the object of study to the act of studying and becomes for Ginzburg a kind of intellectual theft in which the integrity of the past is subordinated not so much to the present as to the activity of the scholar.26

No matter how critical the microhistorians become about the authority of evidence, no matter how fully they appreciate the interpreter's dilemma in trying to preserve the foreignness of a subject and yet make it familiar enough to be understood, no matter how aware they are of the ways in which texts influence their own meanings, they assume that there is a reality external to those historical texts, a reality that can be known.27 They certainly accept a kind of historical uncertainty principle, recognizing that history only balances possibilities against probabilities; but they also share an assumption with detectives and ethnologists that clues found in documents, at murder scenes, and in informants' oral accounts point to something other than themselves. Ginzburg wants to employ the primal method of the Palaeolithic hunter, that first philologist, who recognised from paw prints that a lion he had never actually seen, heard, touched, or smelled had come his way .28 The characteristic feature of the hunter's knowledge "was that it permitted the leap from apparently insignificant facts, which could be observed, to a complex reality which-directly at least-could not. And these facts would be ordered by the observer in such a way as to provide a narrative sequence-at its simplest, 'someone passed this way.' 29 The hunter's position was the inverse of Foucault's: to the hunter the prey was all, he was nothing.

However ancient its roots may be, the microhistorical approach raises questions about selectivity and significance. By what criteria are names to be picked out and how representative of broader social trends and collective mentalities are the subjects' activities and thoughts ? What can the few tell about the many, especially when the process of selection is neither random nor statistically rigorous ? And how can historians concerned with trifles avoid producing trivial history ?

Edoardo Grendi has suggested that a response to these questions should rely on the statistical concept of a normal exception.30 Since rebels, heretics, and criminals are the most likely candidates from the lower or non-literate classes to leave sufficient traces to become the subjects of microhistories, their behaviour is, by definition, exceptional . However, as Ginzburg and Poni note in "The Name and the Game," certain kinds of transgressions against authority constitute normal behaviour for those on the social periphery , the kinds of behaviour sociologists call "self help"-that is, those illegal or socially proscribed actions that were normal for those who had no other means of redress.31 Some transgressors, therefore, might be exceptions to the norms defined by political or ecclesiastical authorities but would be perfectly representative of their own social milieu.

Understanding what behaviours and ideas were beyond the pale might also help to describe better the characteristics of the dominant group that defined what was considered normal.32 Although most of the essays in this collection study persons who were exceptional in comparison to dominant groups and dominant values, the three examples of what might be called social microhistory show in particular how the behaviour of marginal persons can be used to clarify the nature of authority. In his fascinating account of licensed Jewish "iconoclasm" ("Jews, the Local Church, the 'Prince' and the People: Two Late Fifteenth-Century Episodes Involving the Destruction of Sacred Images"), Michele Luzzati reconstructs connections within the Italian Jewish community on the one hand and between specific Jews and various Christian ecclesiastical and secular authorities on the other . By finding out everything he can about every participant in the events, including even the career of the mason hired to destroy the Christian images in a Jew's house, Luzzati shows how much more important are patterns of personal and economic relationships than are the vague abstractions usually invoked in explaining the deteriorating position of Jews in late fifteenth-century Italy.

In a richly complex and sometimes difficult essay ("The Political System of a Community in Liguria: Cervo in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries"), Edoardo Grendi develops a social version of microhistory that most fully departs from the cultural orientation of Ginzburg and his associates. Like the others he begins by tracing the names and interactions of his subjects, but in this case the subjects are members of an elite, albeit those in a minor seaside community. Grendi frames his many carefully drawn portraits of individuals with statistics that illustrate the economy of coral gathering and olive-oil production. As a result of his close attention to the actual behaviour of individuals and families that can be traced from judicial records, he revises several standard social-science generalisations, showing that factional conflict did not rest on a patronage system but on local solidarity and that economic activity was defined by many forces that were external to the operations of the market. Local connections predominated over all other factors, but in this highly litigious society interpersonal ties were fleeting and transitory .Grendi's work exemplifies how inadequate are institutional studies that rely simply on the elite's self-descriptions of political behaviour and economic studies in which global statistics obscure the actual nature of exchanges.33

In a similar fashion but for a dramatically different context, Gianna Pomata shows in her "Unwed Mothers in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Clinical Histories and Life Histories" how our understanding of official institutions can be redefined through microhistorical studies of persons who were subject to their influence. For this period in place of the Inquisition whose records are favoured by the cultural microhistorians, Pomata looks at hospitals and maternity wards in which the collection of the clinical and life histories of patients was gradually replaced by laboratory analyses and statistical surveys, a process that erased the identities of individual unwed mothers and subjected their bodies to clinical regimentation. Pomata tries to reverse this process, neatly using microhistory to restore to life the experiences of women lost by the same scientific quantifying process that the microhistorians think has eliminated individuals from history .

In addition to seeing their subjects as normal exceptions, the microhistorians consider certain historical documents as examples of a second kind of normal exception. If documents generated by the forces of authority systematically distort the social reality of the subaltern classes, then an exceptional document, especially one that records the exact words of a lower-class witness or defendant, could be much more revealing than a multitude of stereotypical sources.34 In selecting these exceptional documents and neutralising the distortions in others, the microhistorians have relied on specific criteria of proof designed to resurrect "forms of knowledge or understandings of the world which have been suppressed or lost. 35 It is here that they most dramatically emulate Freud's daring attitude toward standards of proof that led him to prize obscure clues to things hidden in the human psyche.

Although the characteristic microhistorical attitude toward proof is evident in most of the work presented here, it is again Carlo Ginzburg who has been explicit about its implications. What he has called the "evidential paradigm" suggests that unknown objects can be identified "through single, seemingly insignificant, signs, rather than through the application of laws derived from repeatable and quantifiable observations. 36 He bolsters his use of the evidential paradigm by an analysis of the methods of three disciplines that blossomed during the last decades of the nineteenth century: art history, epitomised by Giovanni Morelli's study in paintings of marginal details such as the shape of ears; psychoanalysis, exemplified by Freud's technique of divining "secret and concealed things" from inadvertent verbal slips and unconscious symptoms; and criminology represented by Francis Galton's 1892 work, Finger Prints, and the investigative adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes. The methods of artistic connoisseurship, psychiatric diagnosis, and criminal detection have more in common than might at first appear: Morelli, Freud, and Conan Doyle were all physicians trained in the late nineteenth century at a time when diagnostic medicine was becoming increasingly influential. The ground these disciplines share was recognised at the time. Freud wrote that Morelli's stress on minor details was "closely related to the technique of psychoanalysis" ; Conan Doyle probably knew about Morelli's techniques through his artist father and his uncle who was director of the Dublin Art Gallery, and the physician author's probable model for Holmes, the medical professor Dr. Joseph Bell, used to lecture on the similarity between disease and crime and how in making a true diagnosis the physician must pay particular attention to minute details.37

In an impressive display of erudition Ginzburg traces the genealogy of the evidential paradigm back much further, to Palaeolithic hunting lore that in providing a method for interpreting animal tracks produced the idea of narrative, to Mesopotamian divination books, to Hippocrates, and in a final sweep, which encompasses too much to add much clarity, to "physicians, historians, politicians, potters, joiners, mariners, hunters, fishermen, and women in general," all of whom proceeded by building up knowledge of a whole from an examination of parts.38 To Ginzburg this is the nub of the matter. The degree to which an endeavour is occupied with the individual is inversely proportional to its ability to apply the Galilean model, which relies on the statistical examination of evidence suggested by a hypothesis. Either understanding of the individual is sacrificed in achieving a mathematical standard of generalisation or an alternative method must be accepted that is based on individual cases in a way that "would (in some way yet to be worked out) be scientific.39

Even more than in the other anthropocentric disciplines, history , according to Ginzburg, "always remains a science of a very particular kind, irremediably based on the concrete."40 Historical knowledge, therefore, is always to some degree conjectural because historians must work like medical practitioners who cannot actually see most diseases but must diagnose their presence indirectly on the basis of telltale symptoms or signs. For example, in his The Enigma of Piero Ginzburg relies on Morellian techniques to isolate a distinctively shaped ear and demonstrates that the same man's portrait appears in three different paintings. Sorting out the authentic portraits of Cardinal Bessarion from the fanciful, Ginzburg compares the subjects' noses.41 Such trifles as these generate "conjectural proofs" in two possible ways. First, in a positive operation the historian compares discrete examples of particular details such as noses, ears, or textual citations, using them like a hunter uses tracks or a detective fingerprints to identify a known but unseen animal or person. In this process likenesses confirm the most likely possibility. Second, in a negative operation the investigator systematically eliminates alternatives until only one remains-as Sherlock Holmes does, in perhaps the most frequently cited example of such reasoning, when he points out the curious failure of the watchdog to bark on the night that the racehorse Silver Blaze disappeared from its stable. Holmes eliminates all suspects but one by noting that such a dog resists the temptation to bark only in the presence of its master . In this process the removal of the unlikely isolates the likely. 42

The proofs found in many of the microhistories have been the object of the severest criticisms of the genre, in part because of a reluctance to recognise or accept the conjectural nature of the endeavour. To understand the microhistorians' task, we need to know what is "conjectural" about these proofs and by what process these historians move from the observation of facts to the production of conclusions. What, in fact, is a conjecture?

The clearest and most consistent analysis of the logical process the microhistorians are trying to follow can be found in the philosopher Charles Peirce's notion of abduction.43

Abduction makes its start from the facts, without, at the outset, having any particular theory in view, though it is motivated by the feeling that a theory is needed to explain the surprising facts. Induction makes its start from a hypothesis which seems to recommend itself, without at the outset having any particular facts in view, though it feels the need of facts to support the theory. Abduction seeks a theory .Induction seeks for facts. In abduction the consideration of the facts suggests the hypothesis. In induction the study of the hypothesis suggests the experiments which bring to light the very facts to which the hypothesis had pointed.

Abduction, moreover, does not prove anything; it "merely suggests that something may be. 44 Proof comes from induction. The significance of abduction lies not in its ability to prove that something is operative or actually exists but in the creative potential it represents. According to Peirce, abduction "is the only logical operation which introduces a new idea; for induction does nothing but determine a value, and deduction merely evolves the necessary consequences of a pure hypothesis. 45 It is precisely in their creative innovations based on abduction that the microhistorians have been the most intriguing.

Peirce argued that a method should not be chosen for its security or its guarantee of certain answers but for its potential for fruitfulness or uberty, to use his own neologism. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between fruitfulness and security: the greater the potential for uberty, the less likely a method will lead to certainty .46 Abduction, therefore, is the most fruitful and least certain method. " Abduction is, after all, nothing but guessing," and yet Peirce noted that a hypothesis based on observed facts is more often correct than it would be if governed by mere chance, even though such a guess is logically only a maybe/maybe-not proposition. Moreover, no advance in knowledge could be made without abductions.47 What the microhistorians have done, and most precisely what Carlo Ginzburg has done, is to single out and be explicit about a way of doing history that has, in fact, long governed a great deal of historical practice, whatever its pretensions to scientific status.

Abduction and conjecture, however, have their dangers. Microhistorical arguments, especially those devoted to some form of cultural interpretation, are vulnerable to circularity; because all interpretation "presupposes," as Ginzburg says, "a reciprocal interchange between the whole and the parts," there is both the "healthy circularity of hermeneutic interpretation" and the vicious circle. The best check against the latter is the convergence of several independent lines of investigation, which substantially reduce the possibility of error.48 But when are similarities true convergences and not just coincidences?

The best answer to this question can be found in the distinction between "to show" (mostrare), which reveals formal analogies in the internal structure of a subject such as similar stylistic traits in paintings by the same artist, and "to demonstrate" (dimostrare), which uses evidence external to the subject such as written contracts to show that the same artist painted two different canvases.49 The most convincing argument comes when proofs that show and those that demonstrate converge. 50 The final guard against overly elaborated circular arguments comes from what has been called "Ginzburg's razor," one of the strict rules that he wishes imposed on the use of conjectures: "other things being equal, the interpretation requiring fewest hypotheses should generally be taken as the most probable. 51

In applying "Ginzburg's razor," microhistorians have tried to be very precise about exactly how the sources they use were put together and how the various voices found in them can be distinguished. Ginzburg notes, for example, how inquisitorial records were kept: a notary was charged with the verbatim transcription of what was said, both questions and answers, an obligation that permits the modern scholar to adjust for leading or suggestive questions. But sometimes the notary in laziness or haste switched to the third person and paraphrased the interrogation, making the trial much more problematic as a source.52 Maurizio Bertolotti shows a similar sensitivity to the presuppositions of both participants in an inquisitorial dialogue, while Ottavia Niccoli unravels multiple layers of opinion and belief and distinguishes among various media of transmission in her account of the spread of news about the Agnadello apparitions. Michele Luzzati in his brilliant close reading of notarial records uncovers changes of opinion by paying particular attention to the erased and crossed-out passages in the revised draft of a notarised contract. Struck by the terrible pathos of her subjects, Gianna Pomata abandons classification and quantitative analysis of the unwed mothers for a careful examination of the supposedly scientific hypotheses that structured the women's clinical and life histories. Her awareness of all the voices in the documents allows her to free the mostly ignorant young women from the constraints of medical practice in order to let them tell their own stories in their own way. The great strength of the microhistories comes from this sensitivity to the nuances of power and the changes of voice in documents.53 They recognise how there was a series of gaps or disjunctures between what was said and what was recorded, between what the interrogators asked and what the scholar wants to know, and between what the educated notaries or physicians and the bewildered defendants or patients understood about the other. Inquisitors twisted replies to fit their own preconceptions, peasants perplexedly tried to explain themselves and to guess what the officials wanted to hear, and differences in dialect and levels of culture sometimes hopelessly compromised communication but still leave the historian with vital clues.54

In the subjects they have chosen, microhistorians have snipped at the fringes of normal historical practice, that vast middle area between histoire totale and microstoria. Although the fascination with trifles may threaten what in another context Simon Schama has called "the pigmification of historical scale," the ablest practitioners of the microhistorical genre, including those translated here, have been struggling to eliminate the distortions produced by the giantification of historical scale, which has crushed all individuals to insignificance under the weight of vast impersonal structures and forces To them the idea that microhistory leads to relativism or to an attitude that anything goes-that any little neglected subject is worth examining especially if it is about deviant sex or outlandish religious beliefs-is a serious misreading of their intentions. The purpose of microhistory is to elucidate historical causation on the level of small groups where most of real life takes place and to open history to peoples who would be left out by other methods.

The new historical detectives from Italy may not have found a foolproof method, any more than have real-world as opposed to fictional detectives, but it would be a mistake to dismiss them because they appear to be devoted to little problems. Quite the opposite is the case. They have been struggling with one of the biggest questions: what can we know about the peoples lost to history ?


1. This Introduction borrows liberally from a paper I presented in 1987 as a

Mellon Lecture at Tulane University and at a session on microhistory organized by Anne Jacobson Schutte at the Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference in Tempe, Arizona. I wish to thank the many persons who made helpful comments at these presentations and especially those who read early versions of the paper: James Amelang, Linda L. Carroll, Paul Paskoff, Karl Roider, Guido Ruggiero, and Thomas Scheff. I have benefited greatly from their criticisms, and the errors that remain are my own.

2. Robin W. Winks, ed., The Historian as Detective: Essays on Evidence (New

York, 1970).

3. Thomas Scheff, "Micro-linguistics and Social Structure: A Theory of Social

Action," Sociological Theory 4 (1986): 71-83. Professor Scheff kindly allowed me to see some of his other work on micro sociology prior to its publication.

4. Stephen Jay Gould, "Animals and Us," New York Review of Books, June 25,

1987, p. 23, an article that reviews The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior by Jane Goodall (Cambridge, Mass., 1986).

5. Renato Rosaldo, Ilongot Headhunting, 1883-1974: A Study in Society and

History (Stanford, 1980), p. 23. The interdisciplinary literature on history and anthropology is now vast: see especially Bernard Cohn, "History and Anthropology: The State of Play," Comparative Studies in Society and History 22 (1980): 198-221; idem, "History and Anthropology: Towards a Rapprochement," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 12 (1981): 227-52; Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Possibilities of the Past," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 12 (1981): 267-75; and Diane Owen Hughes, "Toward Historical Ethnography: Notarial Records and Family History in the Middle Ages," Historical Methods Newsletter 7 (1976): 61-71. Recent discussions of the issues from the anthropological side can be found in the extended book review by various authors of Maurice Bloch's, From Blessing to Violence: History and Ideology in the thropology 27 {1986): 349-60. Useful recent views from history are Robert Darnton, "The Symbolic Element in History," Journal of Modern History 58 {1986): 267-75 and the chapters on "The Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Italy" and "The Sources: Outsiders and Insiders" in Peter Burke's, The Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Italy: Essays on Perception and Communication {Cambridge, 1987), pp. 3-24. For a critique by a microhistorian of the ways in which some historians have employed the cultural anthropology of Clifford Geertz, see Giovanni Levi, "I pericoli

di geertzismo," Quaderni storici [hereafter, QS] 58 {1985): 269-77, esp. 275.

6. "The Inquisitor as Anthropologist," in Ginzburg's Clues, Myths, and the

Historical Method, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi {Baltimore, 1989),

p. 164, a translation of the collection, Miti emblemi spie: Morfologia e storia {Turin, 1986), which does not, however, contain this particular essay. I

7. Carlo Ginzburg's study of Piero della Francesca was the first volume in the

microstorie series published by Einaudi: Indagini su Piero: Il Battesimo, il ciclo di Arezzo, la Flagellazione di Urbino {Turin, 1981), trans. Martin Ryle and Kate Soper as The Enigma of Piero: Piero della Francesca: The Baptism, the Arezzo Cycle, the Flagellation {London, 1985). Books published for the first time by this series include an analysis of matrimonial strategies in the diocese of Como: Raul Merzario, Il paese stretto: Strategie matrimoniali nella diocesi di Como {secoli XVI-XVIII) {Turin, 1981); a dialogue between two historians about recapturing historical consciousness: Pietro Marcenaro and Vittorio Foa, Riprendere tempo: Un dialogo con postilla {Turin, 1982); a study of the rebuilding of a Venetian church during the Renaissance: Antonio Foscari and Manfredo Tafuri, L 'armonia e i conj1itti: La chiesa di San Francesco della

Vigna nella Venezia del '500 {Turin, 1983); a reinterpretation of the charges of heresy against Galileo: Pietro Redondi, Galileo eretico {Turin, 1983), trans. Raymond Rosenthal as Galileo Heretic {Princeton, 1987); a reconstruction of the systems of kinship and of manufacturing among woolen-cloth workers in the Biellese during the nineteenth-century: Franco Ramella, Terra e telai: Sistemi di parentela e manifattura nel Biellese dell'Ottocento {Turin, 1984); a prosopography of the clients of a priest-exorcist in seventeenth-century Piedmont: Giovanni Levi, L 'ereditd immateriale: Camera di un esorcista nel Piemonte del Seicento {Turin, 1985), trans. Lydia G. Cochrane as Inheriting Power: The Story of an Exorcist {Chicago, 1988); an oral history of the experiences of common people as the city of Temi evolved from an agricultural village to a major industrial center: Alessandro Portelli, Biografia di una cittd: Storia e racconto: Terni 1830-1985 {Turin, 1985); and an examination of feuding in Liguria: Osvaldo Raggio, Faide e parentele: Lo stato genovese visto dalla Fontanabuona {Turin, 1990). Einaudi's microstorie series has also brought parallel examples of foreign scholarship to Italian readers, including Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum's reconstruction of family factions in the Salem witchcraft trials: Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft {Cambridge, Mass., 1974), translated as Microstorie no.12, La cittd indemoniata: Salem e le origini sociali di una caccia alle streghe {Turin, 1986); Natalie Zemon Davis's book about the celebrated sixteenth-century French case of an imposter who took over the bed and property of a missing husband: Le retour de M artin Guerre {Paris 1982), The Return of Martin Guerre {Cambridge, Mass., 1983), and as Mi-

crostorie no.9, Il ritorno di Martin Guerre: Un caso di doppia identitd nella Francia del Cinquecento {Turin, 1984); Anton Blok's study of the evolution of Mafia violence: The MafIa of a Sicilian Village, 1860-1960 {New York, 1974), translated as Microstorie no.13, La mafia di un villaggio siciliano, 1860-1960: Imprenditori, contadini, violenti {Turin, 1986); and Edward P. Thompson's major articles in historical anthropology translated as Microstorie no.2, Societd patrizia, cultura plebea: Otto saggi di antropologia storica sull'lnghilterra del Settecento {Turin, 1981). Non-ltalian examples of microhistory include Jonathan Spence's account of the murder of a seventeenth-century Chinese peasant woman: The Death of Woman Wang {New York, 1978); Judith Brown's portrait of a seventeenth-century nun who devoted herself to faked visions and lesbian sex: Immodest Acts; The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy {New York, 1986); Gene Brucker's recounting of a lovers' dispute in Renaissance Florence over the validity of their marriage: Giovanni and Lusanna; Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence {Berkeley, 1986); and Steven Ozment's extended commentary on the letters between a sixteenth-century German merchant and his wife: Magdalena and Balthasar; An Intimate Portrait of Life in Sixteenth- Century Europe Revealed in the Letters of a Nuremberg Husband and Wife {New York, 1986). Microhistory has some additional obvious predecessors in the work of Georges Duby, La Dimanche de Bouvine~(27 juillet 1214) {Paris, 1973); Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou; The Promised Land of Error {New York, 1978); and idem, Carnival in Romans {New York, 1979).

8. Cf. Alberto Caracciolo, "Gli indici di 'Quaderni storici': Una rivista modernistica?" QS 62 {1986): 613-14.

9. "Micro-analisi e storia sociale," QS 35 {1977): 506-20.

10. Thomas, Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d. ed. enlarged {Chicago, 1970). On everyday life, see Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Rendall {Berkeley, 1984).

11. Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Reasons of Misrule," in Society and Culture in

Early Modern France {Stanford, 1975), p. 122. Cf. idem, "The Possibilities of the Past," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 12 {1981): 267-75.

12. On the use of common sense in history, see Edoardo Grendi, "Del senso

comune storiografico," QS 41 {1979): 698-720. Cf. Ronald F. E. Weissman, "Re-

constructing Renaissance Sociology: The 'Chicago School' and the Study of Renaissance Society," in Persons in Groups; Social Behaviour as Identity Formation in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, ed. R. C. Trexler {Binghamton, N. Y., 1985), p. 40.

13. For the quotation see Chapter 1. According to Vincenzo Ferrone and Massimo

Firpo, who are quite critical of the use of evidence in some examples, microhistories are "an attempt to clarify all the complex density and the thick network of connections and relations that lie tangled together in facts, real situations, events, ideas, images, men, and social groups of the past." "Galileo tra inquisitori e micro-storici," Rivista storica italiana 97 {1985): 177-238. Abbreviated and translated as "From Inquisitors to Microhistorians: A Critique of Pietro Redondi's Galileo eretico," Journal of Modern History 58 {1986): 485-524. The citation is from the English version, p. 521.

14. On the method of concentrating on persons or groups at the periphery of

society, Enrico Castelnuovo and Carlo Ginzburg, "Centro e periferia," in Storia

dell' arte italiana, part 1 : M ateriali e problemi, ed. Giovanni Previtali, vol. 1 : Questioni e metodi {Turin, 1979), pp. 285-352.

15. See his "Witchcraft and Popular Piety: Notes on a Modenese Trial," in Clues,

Myths, and the Historical Method, pp. 1-16, and The Night Battles; Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi {Baltimore, 1983), originally published as I Benandanti; Stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento {Turin, 1966). All citations are from the English edition. After The Night Battles, Ginzburg wrote a more conventional book on the problem of religious dissimulation in the sixteenth century. Il Nicodemismo; Simulazione e dissimulazione religiosa nell'Europa del '500 {Turin, 1970).

16. The Cheese and the Worms; The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans.

John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi {Baltimore, 1980), originally published as Il formaggio e vermi; Il cosmo di un mugnaio del '500 (Turin, 1976). All citations are from the English edition.

17. The relationship between the evolution of microhistory and the various radical political movements that were so controversial in the 1970s, particularly around the universities of Bologna and Padua, needs further exploration. The Autonomist ideologue, Toni Negri, saw Ginzburg's evidential paradigm as a potential salvation for contemporary society and as a new and revolutionary doctrine. See Alphabeta (March 1980). Ginzburg reacted by pointing out that Negri misunderstood his whole position and that far from revolutionary, the paradigm is very ancient. See the debate about Ginzburg's methodological ideas: "Paradigma indiziario e conoscenza storica," Quaderni di storia 12 (1980): 3-54.

18. Keith Luria and Romulo Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginzburg: An Interview," Radical

History Review 35 (1986): 103, and Ginzburg in "Paradigma indiziario," p. 50.

19. Luria and Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 106. I

20. Cf. Keith Luria, "The Paradoxical Carlo Ginzburg," Radical History Review

35 (1986): 80.

21. On his positivism, see Anne Jacobson Schutte, "Carlo Ginzburg," Journal of

Modern History 48 (1976): 298-99, 314n. For his disagreements with Freud, see

"Freud, the Wolf-Man, and the Werewolves," in Clues, Myths, and the Historical

Method, pp. 146-55. By Ginzburg's own account (Luria and Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginz-

burg," pp. 90-91), the books that have been the most important to him are Federico Chabod's still untranslated masterpiece on the religious life of sixteenth-century Milan, Lo stato e la vita religiosa a Milano nell'epoca di Carlo V (Turin, 1977); Marc Bloch's The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula in England and France (Paris, 1961; London, 1973); and Sir Ernst Gombrich's Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (New York, 1960). The art historians of the Warburg Institute, among whom Gombrich is the senior member, deeply influenced Ginzburg during his time as a fellow there. Cf. Ginzburg, "From Aby Warburg to E. H. Gombrich: A Problem of Method," in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, pp. 17-59. Aby Warburg often quoted Flaubert's "God is in the details," an aphorism echoed in the work of the microhistorians, Ginzburg in particular .

22. Luria and Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 102.

23. Enrico Artifoni and Giuseppe Sergi, "Microstoria e indizi, senza esclusioni

senza illusioni," QS 45 (1980): 1122.

24. Luria and Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 102.

25. Hayden v. White, "Foucault Decoded: Notes from the Underground," His-

toryand Theory 12 (1973): 51.

26. Ginzburg reserves his most caustic criticism, moreover, for the post-Fou-

caultian deconstructionists. "I am deeply interested in catching the right meaning-I know that is a kind of heresy for a lot of people, that notion of right meaning. But I am deeply against every kind of Derrida trash, that kind of cheap skeptical attitude. I think that that is one of the cheapest intellectual things going on. ... ..."It is a kind of cheap nihilism. I am certainly against it for ideological reasons, but at the same time, I am struck by the fact that it is something so cheap. There is a kind of silly narcissistic assumption. I am deeply against it. I start with a kind of realistic attitude in the sense of a realistic notion of truth. At the same time, I am convinced that you can have a kind of creative misreading of what, for instance, I am trying to write. And I think that maybe the major contradiction is that I am trying to start with that positivistic notion of truth in some way, but at the same time, I am conscious of the fact that there are no rules that can be taken for granted. They have been built by people. So maybe there is a contradiction between that, the fact that I start with that posi Introduction xxv tivistic notion of truth, but at the same time, I am strongly against any positivistic naivete about knowledge. Can you look for the implications of power in every kind of intellectual exchange or symbolic exchange without falling in a kind of skeptical trap? This is a problem" {Luria and Gandolfo, "Carlo Ginzburg," pp. 100-101.)

27. Cf. Vincent Crapanzano, "Hermes' Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in

Ethnographic Description," in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus {Berkeley, 1986), pp. 51-52.

28. Carlo Ginzburg, "Spie: Radici di un paradigma indiziario," Ombre rosse 29

{1979): 80-107. Also published in Crisi della ragione, ed. A. Gargani {Turin, 1979), pp. 57-106, and in Ginzburg's Miti, em~lemi, spie: Morfologia e storia, pp. 158-209. Translated into English as "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method," History Workshop 9 {1980): 5-36, and in The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce, ed. Umberto Eco and Thomas A. Sebeok {Bloomington, Ind., 1983), pp. 81- 118. The best translation is the newest, "Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm," in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, pp. 96-125. Citations are from the History Workshop version, pp. 12-14.

29. Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," p. 13.

30. Grendi, "Micro-analisi." Cf. Ginzburg, "Paradigma indiziario," pp. 33-34.

31. Donald Black and M. P. Baumgarmer, "On Self-help in Modern Society," in

The Manners and Customs of the Police, ed. Donald Black {New York, 1980), pp. 193- 208. Donald Black, "Crime as Social Control," in Towards a General Theory of Social Control, vol. 2: Selected Problems, ed. Donald Black {Orlando, Fla., 1984), pp. 1-28.

32. Cf. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms, p. xxi.

33. Grendi insists on defining very precisely how social forces or individual choices determine cultural expressions and events. He wants to treat culture as a process, the accumulative data of daily experience. He differs from Ginzburg most of all in his interests since he considers culture less as the object of interpretation than as the medium through which the dynamics of power, the distribution of resources, and the nature of hierarchy can be analysed. Grendi criticizes Clifford Geertz for his failure to disclose the social and economic dynamics of culture. See "Sei storie Wiirttemburghesi," QS 63 {1986): 971-80. A particularly revealing statement of what Grendi thinks is the wrong kind of microhistory can be found in "Storia sociale e storia interpretativa," QS 61 {1986): 201-10, his highly critical review of Giulia Calvi's Storie di un anno di peste: Comportamenti sociali e immaginario nella Firenze Barocca {Milan,

1984), now available as Histories of a Plague Year: The Social and the Imaginary in Baroque Florence, trans. DarioBioccaand Bryant T. Ragan,Jr. {Berkeley, 1989). Her response is "A proposito di 'Storie di un anno di peste,' " QS 63 {1986): 1009-18. On the need for a social and economic context to understand culture, see Giovanni Levi, "Villaggi," QS 46 {1981): 7-10.

34. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms, pp. xxi-xxii.

35. Luria, "Carlo Ginzburg," pp. 84-85. Anne Jacobson Schutte sees this issue

as the dilemma that underlies all of Ginzburg's early work. "In Inquisition records or in books written by educated people for popular consumption, for example, how can one identify precisely and determine the relationship among popular ideas in their original form, intellectuals' notions about what the masses believe or should believe, and the common ground of preconceptions shared by exalted and humbler members of a given society?" "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 314.

36. Luria, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 86. Ginzburg's term in Italian is paradigma

indiziario {"Spie"), which is almost impossible to translate, as Peter Burke notes, "because indiziario refers not only to the phrase prova indiziaria, 'circumstantial evidence,' but also to the various meanings of indizio, 'sign,' no less than 'indicator' or 'clue.' " "Carlo Ginzburg, Detective," the introduction to Ginzburg, The Enigma of Piero, p. 1. Translation is additionally made difficult by the value of a prova indiziaria in Italian jurisprudence, which permits convictions for "moral culpability" and which gives greater weight than Anglo-American law to circumstantial and presumptive evidence. The term paradigma indiziario has been variously translated as "conjectural paradigm," "semiotic paradigm," and "aphoristic paradigm" (Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," p. 15); "circumstantial paradigm" (Ferrone and Firpo, "Inquisitors to Microhistorians," p. 490); "divinatory knowledge" (Anna Davin's

introduction to Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," p. 6); "an art of suspicion" (Burke, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 1); and "evidential paradigm" (the Tedeschi translation of "Clues"). Its full meaning includes the connotat~ns of presumption, indication, and intuition. I have chosen evidential paradigm since that seems to be Ginzburg's own choice for the equivalent English term.

37. Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," pp. 8, 10 (for quotation).

Thomas Sebeok and Jean U miker-Sebeok, " 'You Know My Method' : A J uxtaposition

of Charles S. Peirce and Sherlock Holmes," in Eco and Sebeok, The Sign of Three,


38. Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," p. 15.

39. Ibid., p. 19. The most useful discussion of the evidential paradigm includes

comments by several critics and Ginzburg's responses. See "Paradigma indiziario," pp. 3-54. In the case of Redondi's work, at least, the evidential paradigm has been used to privilege a few sources over an enormous body of counter evidence. Pietro Redondi, Galileo eretico (Turin, 1983 ). The most cogent criticisms are those of Ferrone and Firpo, "Inquisitors to microhistorians," esp. pp. 521-23.

40. "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," pp. 15-16.

41. Ginzburg's redating of the Arezzo fresco cycle "depends on a series of very

precise factual coincidences" and "upon a chain of conjectures." "However, this

uncertainty does not affect the core of the argument, based as it is upon a convergence between biographical, stylistic, and iconographic data, and data concerning the commissioning (direct and indirect) of the cycle." The Enigma of Piero, p. 45, cf. pp. 123-24 and 133. Antonio Pinelli points out that Ginzburg's conjectural proofs range from the plausible to mere suppositions. "In margine a 'Indagine su Piero' di Carlo Ginzburg" QS 50 (1982): 692. In other cases, most successfully in The Cheese and the Worms, Ginzburg systematically eliminates all possible explanations for the known facts until only one alternative remains, but at one point (p. 66), for example, he acknowledges as "purely conjectural" his assertion that Menocchio must have known about Servetus's De Trinitatis erroribus in some indirect way. Elsewhere he uses the phrase, "elastic rigor." "The existence of a deep connection which explains superficial phenomena can be confirmed when it is acknowledged that direct knowledge of such a connection is impossible. Reality is opaque; but there are certain points-clues, signs-which allow us to decipher it." As the systematic scientific approach declines in its ability to recognize these signs, this "aphoristic" approach gains in interpretive strength. But, Ginzburg asks, "is rigour compatible with the conjectural paradigm?" Since this form of knowledge is so bound up with daily

experience, every context appears to be unique. "In such contexts the elastic rigour (to use a contradictory phrase) of the conjectural paradigm seems impossible to eliminate." Ginzburg seems to mean that the approach cannot be reduced to rules because it can be learned only through experience, which then informs intuition. "Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes," pp. 27-29. Cf. Ginzburg, "Paradigma indiziario," pp. 34-37. Peter Burke notes, however, that Ginzburg is willing to impose very firm rules on iconology. "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 3.

42. Arthur Conan Doyle, "Silver Blaze," in The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Gar-

den City, N. Y., 1930), p. 347.

43. Eco and Sebeok, The Sign of Three, p. vii. In his "Clues" article Ginzburg

mentions Peirce and abduction only in a note (n. 33) on Mesopotamian divination.

44. Cited in Sebeok and Umiker-Sebeok, " 'You Know My Method,' " pp.


45. Peirce cited in Nancy Harrowitz, "The Body of the Detective Model: Charles

S. Peirce and Edgar Allan Poe," in Eco and Sebeok, The Sign of Three, p. 181.

Although Sherlock Holmes usually calls his logical operations "deductions," Marcello Truzzi argues that, in fact, deductions are rare and that most cases involve abductions. "Sherlock Holmes: Applied Social Psychologist," in ibid., p. 69. Umberto Eco discusses four kinds of abductions. "Horns, Hopves, Insteps: Some Hypotheses on Three Types of Abduction," in ibid., pp. 206-7.

46. Thomas Sebeok, "One, Two, Three Spells u B E R T Y, " in Eco and Sebeok, The

Sign of Three, p. 1.

47. Peirce cited in The Sign of Three, pp. 16-17, 49n. Ginzburg expresses frank admiration for audacious abductions (The Cheese and the Worms, p. 154n). Conan Doyle in the persona of Sherlock Holmes is less open to this aspect of abduction because he wishes to make his observations closely conform to codes and laws, whereas Peirce emphasized the innovative aspect of abduction. Bonfantini and Proni, "To Guess or Not to Guess," in The Sign of Three, pp. 128-29. The principal weakness of Holmes's inferences is that he fails to test the hypotheses he achieves through abduction. Of at least 217 abductions in the Sherlockian canon, the detective searches for external validation in only 28 instances, and not all of these are directly related to the abduction. Holmes's inferences work only because Conan Doyle's fiction permits them to. Truzzi, "Sherlock Holmes," p. 70.

48. Ginzburg, The Enigma of Piero, pp. 21-22. He repeatedly shows he is aware

of the danger of circular arguments, especially when an interpretation of a painting is adduced as evidence of the painter's state of mind (pp. 1-4) or when one conjectural identity is used to establish another (p. 141). In The Cheese and the Worms, however, the argument at some points becomes entirely circular. The coincidence of similar imagery in the Veda and the miller Menocchio's cosmology "may constitute one of the proofs, even though fragmentary and partly obliterated, of the existence of a millenarian cosmological tradition" (p. 58). But in an extended explanatory note on this point (pp. 154-55) Ginzburg states that the existence of an oral cosmological tradition explains Menocchio's own cosmology better than do contemporary philosophical texts. The oral cosmology and Menocchio's beliefs are used to explain one another, but the very existence of the oral cosmology is demonstrated largely by Menocchio's ideas. Acknowledging this circularity and Ginzburg's call for "new criteria of proof" does not necessarily make him wrong and his critic, Paola Zambelli, correct. Nevertheless circularity remains a problem. See Zambelli, "Uno, due, tre, mille Menocchio?" Archivio storico italiano 137 (1979): 51-90.

49. Carlo Ginzburg, "Mostrare e dimostrare: Risposta a Pinelli e altri critici," QS

50 (1982): 703, 707-10.

50. The best example of a convergence between internal or text-bound evidence

and external evidence is Ginzburg's reading of a letter written by Menocchio to the inquisitors asking for forgiveness: Ginzburg establishes the letter's level of literacy through handwriting analysis; examines its content and fortnal structure; analyzes the use of symmetry, alliteration, and rhetorical devices in its language; and demonstrates that its approach to metaphors is literal. The Cheese and the Worms, pp. 87-91.

51. Salvatore Set tis, La Tempesta interyretata (Turin, 1978), p. 73, cited and translated in Burke, "Carlo Ginzburg," p. 3.

52. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms, p. ix.

53. Ginzburg, "Prove e possibilita," p. 133. They may be less successful, however, in fully appreciating all the implications of judicial procedure. Cf. Thomas Kuehn, "Reading Microhistory: The Example of Giovanni and Lusanna," Journal of Modern History 61 (1989): 512-34.

54. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms, passim, pp. xiv, 86. Cf. Peter Burke,

Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London, 1978), p. 78.

55. Schama, "The Monte Lupo Story," London Review of Books, 18 September-

1 October, 1980, pp. 22-23.